Rio Farms receives AgriLife Extension Partnership Award

COLLEGE STATION – Rio Farms Inc., a private farming organization in South Texas, has been honored with an Extension Partnership Award presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

The award was presented Jan. 8 during the agency’s Centennial Conference in College Station.

According to the award nomination, Rio Farms is a unique 18,000-acre operation in Hidalgo, Willacy and Cameron counties established in 1941 to train tenant farmers, “some of who started such successful enterprises that they helped put the Lower Rio Grande Valley on the world map of agriculture.

At its inception, an Extension county agent sat on the Rio Farms board of directors, and a strong working relationship with AgriLife Extension has continued ever since.”

By 1972, the organization converted to a research and demonstration operation, which today has a widespread and well-deserved reputation for cutting-edge agricultural research and collaboration, the nomination said. The partnership with AgriLife Extension has flourished through a long history of organizing top-notch educational events for producers.

Brad Cowan, the AgriLife Extension agent in Hidalgo County, submitted the nomination on behalf of agents in the four-county Lower Rio Grande Valley, which includes Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy and Starr counties.

Rio Farms invests its farm income into agricultural research, education, land improvements and facilities, he said.

“Programs range from field days and grower meetings to scout schools and farm worker training,” Cowan wrote, “to include the production of cotton, sugarcane, grain sorghum, corn, soybeans, sesame, wine grapes and more. Over the years, Rio Farms has helped research a long list of potential crops for the area and has served as an AgriLife Extension cooperator for demonstrations pertaining to water quality, irrigation technology, nutrient management and variety trials.”

Cowan said the key to the fruitful partnership today are long-time Rio Farms staff, including Dale Murden, president and general manager, Andy Scott, director of research, and Juan Garza, farm manager.

“Besides considerable time and effort, their support even extends to the loan of Rio Farms’ commercial-size equipment, as well as personnel to aid AgriLife Extension projects across a four-county area. We are immensely fortunate to have partners whose commitment makes an immeasurable contribution to agricultural knowledge worldwide.”

Cowan listed dozens of field days, production meetings and educational meetings hosted by Rio Farms over the last 20 years to which AgriLife Extension personnel were invited speakers.

“It’s well-known throughout the Valley that when Rio Farms and AgriLife Extension host a producers meeting, the program will be first-rate, the room will be packed, the lunch will be great and ag producers will be all the wiser for having attended,” he wrote.

Established in 1999, the Extension Partnership Award recognizes vital alliances with agencies, organizations and others beyond the Texas A&M University System. The award honors those partners whose dedicated collaboration and support have significantly enhanced the outreach and impact of AgriLife Extension programs for the people of Texas.

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